By Way of Introduction

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him vote. They would have to modify the booth to accommodate his horse shape.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On Midnight Thoughts and High School Reunions

I think more clearly at night, unencumbered by the sense that daylight brings, the misgivings that too much clarity of thought illuminates like red-herring road signs on a superhighway: “Gas, Food, Regret – 20 miles.” So it was at 3:27 this morning as I lay awake, toddler daughter using me as a leg rest while she drifted on the tide of innocent slumber. My left kidney protested at the weight of the tiny leg that saddled it, and I duly ignored it while contemplating things that my daytime hours had left me no time to fully consider.

First was how to keep our cat off the new couch. He prefers to sit in the most inconvenient of places, so naturally he has taken to this piece of furniture like dad to his La-Z-Boy. He knows he’s not supposed to sit there, as evidenced by his clumsy efforts to not get caught doing so. When he hears footsteps he jumps up, but is then stranded standing very chalantly in the middle of the room, trying to look natural. He reminds me of the last kid to notice the parent’s entrance to the unsanctioned party at their house. Spotlight on him, needle scratching across the record, cold busted. But what do you say to a cat? “Stay off the couch!” He already knows, and there’s nothing to ground him from, nowhere to send him to timeout. So I’ll be vacuuming the couch a lot.

Second – there’s a 25-year reunion this weekend for my high school. I almost attended the bar portion of the 20th, but was put off too mightily by the ridiculous line of people awaiting entrance to Corby’s and instead just kept driving. My wife and I ended up hanging out with an old friend of mine who was similarly disinclined to stand about in a crowded bar for any length of time – a mini-reunion of sorts. I should have gone anyway, suffered through the discomfort and inconvenience in order to catch up with some of these folks, but I didn’t. Another regret, but in a life where age, mistakes and the resulting wisdom have led to fewer and fewer. Still hardly a day goes by that I don’t mull over something I said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do, and resolve to change my behavior the next time the world offers me the opportunity.

And so it is that I decided to attend at least some of the 25th reunion festivities – as many as I can swing considering that my little girl is attached to me at the hip. So I lay there thinking of the fact that I really don’t keep in touch with folks from high school, and that the Facebook connections I have made are mostly with people who I was not friends with (not NOT friends with either, mind you) in school. More regrets. I missed out on a lot of things in high school as I sat there counting the minutes until the final bell. Was it a bell? I don’t really recall. More of buzzer maybe. At any rate, there were many people I didn’t associate with, mostly because I was so drastically unsure of myself. Every morning I would wake up dreading the awkwardness of the coming day, trying to sleep in so late that my parents would just let me stay in bed. Ha! That NEVER WORKED. I was tall, and skinny, and felt gangly and uncomfortable. I didn’t like my hair, or my clothes, or my nose, or really anything much about my looks. Everyone else seemed so comfortable in their skin, though I know now that many dreaded the experience as much as I did. I overcompensated, acting jaded and aloof. Rather than that helping it just made me feel more isolated from people who I could have called friend.

It’s all so ridiculous to me now, but lying there in the dark those feelings started trying to edge back into my semi-consciousness. Despite the fact that I have grown into my skin, and my nose, and my clothes, I started getting nervous that people might not accept me. What would it mean to me if no one talked to me, if people sat judging me from afar – for whatever reason? Would I care? I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out. I think it is fairly universal for all but the most carefree and well-adjusted among us to worry about our kids and how they will handle the pressures and stresses of school. We tell them to just be themselves, and that people will like them for them. We tell them that if people don’t like them for who they are that those are not the type of people they want for friends anyway, and it’s true. Not everybody will like who you are, but what is most important is that YOU like who you are. When that happens, all the rest takes care of itself.

So, see you at the reunion, fellow alums. I’m looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Charmed Life

I was just reading a(nother) article about a school shooting, this one at Florida State University. In this case only the shooter was killed, at least as of this writing. There were a couple of points that the article made that got me thinking, and the first was how the perpetrator had been posting about things religious and also about his theory that the government is reading our minds, etc.

One: if the government is reading your mind, don't you suppose they'd know you were about to go full Postal and shoot up a library?

Two: why do crazed lunatics almost always identify as religious?

I'm not going to answer those questions, as they seem fairly rhetorical to me.

According to a USA Today piece on the shooting, Jason Derfuss, assumed to be a student at FSU, was near the shooter when he opened fire, not realizing until later that one of his books took a bullet for him:

 "He was about five feet from me, but he hit my books. I assumed I wasn't a target, I assumed I was fine. The truth is I was almost killed tonight and God intervened."

Now, we all hear sports figures thanking their deity when they perform well, and we kind of shrug it off, even if we are religiously inclined. It seems harmless enough, even funny. As if a god that supposedly lets us live our lives unhindered while exercising our him-given free will would step in now and again to help some dipshit throw a ball, catch a ball, hit a ball, etc., but not to stop millions from starving, dying of disease, or being murdered. But then somebody makes the kind of statement that Mr. Derfuss made and people kind of nod. "I can see that. He must have special plans for this kid. It just wasn't his time."

No whammies, no whammies, no whammies...
Bullshit. I call shenanigans. I understand the feeling of a charmed existence, as I too have had near misses in my life. There was the car accident, there were the two times I had guns pointed at me, there was the time at the mall when someone started shooting only twenty or so feet from me, bullets going all over the damn place. I felt lucky, charmed, maybe even blessed. You see, I grew up going to church. I haven't always been a godless heathen. Still, the problems with such sentiments are many. Please go tell the parents of the Sandy Hook victims that God just didn't see the benefit in intervening on behalf of their children. Tell the spouses and children of all the military men and women that God was too busy honing a child-beating Adrian Petersen's running skills to stop the slaughter.

You see the problem with being "blessed?" The law of opposites come into play. If you're blessed, then necessarily all the people who didn't survive the (fill-in-the-blank) shooting were damned. "That was their purpose here on Earth, to die a dog's death at the hands of some crazed asshole." Doesn't sound very nice when you put it that way. How about: "Your child/spouse/parent simply wasn't that important." Still kind of nasty. "God's plan involved them only peripherally. Hope you hadn't gotten too attached."

None of those are really any good. So maybe we should just fall back on the old stand-by:

Your puny human mind couldn't possibly fathom the vast greatness of His plan.

Right. Got it.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bullsh*t Overdrive

Well, the gun debate is finally over. Bruce Willis himself has come out in favor of unabridged access to nuclear weapons.

"I think that you can't start to pick apart anything out of the Bill of Rights without thinking that it's all going to become undone. If you take one out or change one law, then why wouldn't they take all your rights away from you?"

So I think we can all go back to wondering why Fox thinks that Germany is sunnier than America. That's like saying that if you can't hate homosexuals then you can't hate murder or bestiality either, as Supreme Court Justice Scalia claims.

But seriously, if John McClane had not had firearms aplenty at his disposal, the line "Yippi ki yay, (expletive deleted)" would not have had the same effect, thereby rendering Die Hard just another completely forgettable action movie.

Does Stallone's top billing make his opinion more valid than Bruce's?
Such a ban would have halted this franchise dead in its tracks, where Charlton Heston could then have pried the dull butter knife out of its corpse-y, no guns allowed hands. Plus, think of all the disasters we've averted thanks to McClane and his heroic antics. And it's all delivered with (sometimes) snappy one-liners - justice AND entertainment!

Imagine my surprise when during the course of research (googling The Expendables) I discovered that Sly Stallone actually supports reinstating the assault weapons ban. There is no context for the previous remark, I just found it interesting, in a dichotomous sort of way.

Here's the thing: I enjoy target shooting. I am not a hunter, but I respect the hunter. I would hunt if I needed to. I do not believe the government has the right to take my legal firearms from me. However, I am not in favor of assault weapons. They are weapons made for war and for SWAT teams. If the idea is that we've got to be able to protect ourselves from out own government, then why can't I buy a damn tank? Or an assault helicopter? You have to draw the line somewhere, and I think that on the cautious side of the weapon built to cut down waves of soldiers is the right place to draw it. You can disagree with me, but I've yet to see a reasonable explanation of what one might need a machine gun for. If it turns out that someone actually does have a good reason, they should be able to apply for a special license. Perhaps we license them to firing ranges so that people can still go and enjoy shooting them. The firing range makes out, the taxpayer makes out, and the guns are still there in case of that zombie apocalypse. 

I believe that the mentally ill and convicted felons should not be allowed to own guns. I am in favor of background checks. I believe our laws should reflect these things. Just because people will break the laws does not mean we should abolish them. That's idiotic. Does the same apply to murder, or anything else we  currently have laws against, just because people will do them regardless? Or is it that if something is illegal then it makes it less likely to happen? Of course it is. Therefore, making murder legal would necessarily increase the rate of homicide, just as removing seat-belt requirements would increase traffic injuries and fatalities.

Just quit acting like regulating firearms is the same thing as taking them away. It isn't. Period. FYI - the same day that the shooting took place at Sandy Hook some nut job in China injured 22 people at an elementary school there. He used a knife, and there were no fatalities.

Today's Divine Wisdom: Don't be stupid.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Heiroglyphics LOL :)

So, usually I do my most interesting thinking when my mind is not working quite right. I've no doubt that this post will elucidate that concept.

We now use acronyms for a lot of our communication. The most recent variety came into popular usage due to that glorious invention that keeps me from having to verbally communicate with people if I don't want to: the text message. Let me start by saying that I am an English snob to a certain degree, and so one might think that I would abhor these recent bastardizations of my beloved language. Not so. In fact, I welcome them with open arms and open mind - one figuratively and one literally. Now, I'm not saying that these shortcuts are good for classic styles of literature. It's much too early to tell what the long-term effects of all this lol-ing will be for the traditional written word. Rather I am excited about it because I believe it represents a huge leap forward for the human race in terms of evolution. Or at least it is a harbinger of that impending leap.

Think about it: we can now compress entire thoughts into a simple 3-5 letter acronym, and almost everyone can actually decipher what the hell we're saying. Better yet, we can do much the same thing with emoticons - the modern heiroglyph. That is just the type of thing that has never been possible on this planet, at least not to our knowledge. The omnipresence of the internet and social media, and to a lesser extent, reality television, have made this widespread alteration in our means of communicating possible. We make the changes and society either adopts them or rejects them on an almost daily basis, until we have at our disposal an entirely new lexicon, and one that is more efficient than the one that took us thousands of years to arrive at. Mind you, there are great limitations to this "language." It imparts nearly no subtlety or emotion, and it is as yet too broad to be used for anything more than phrases or simple sayings. "You only live once." "In my opinion." "By the way." "Rolling on the floor laughing." Really? I doubt it. This is why I am not worried about the future of the language itself. And yet...

So many minds all converging on the same point is grounds for giant breakthroughs in many areas. The think tank now consists of billions of minds instead of a handful. Yes, there are plenty of morons contaminating the pool, but they've always been there, and they're easy to identify and quarantine, like the Baby Ruth bar in Caddyshack. Twitter managed to help start a regional revolution in the Middle East a couple of years back. That's a big deal. Some video gamers helped decode an HIV protein that had stymied researchers for 15 years... in 3 weeks. I could cite more examples, but I'm not here to offer a treatise on the effectiveness of modern technology in solving age-old problems. Maybe I'll do that in an upcoming post.

The caveat is that right now society is in danger of becoming a parody of itself, as its main source of knowledge and learning is the garbage that society itself cranks out. I see no value in learning that your famous   fill in the blank   is on the menu this evening, or that you broke this morning's fast yet again with your hubby, who it is your pleasure to announce that you love dearly. But once we get all that stuff sorted out and we figure out how to separate the wheat from the chaff... look out! Because we are capable of great things. Really great things. Things we have heretofore not even bothered thinking about due to their seeming impossibility.

Thanks for indulging me. (insert favorite sign-off acronym here) and/or (cliché post-ending zinger to bring the whole thing together in one tidy little package)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Empathy, Anger, Sorrow, Compassion and Love.

December 14, 2012:  Expounded upon in slipshod fashion.

I, like millions of other parents out there this weekend, am at a loss. In a pleasant little town in Connecticut there are twenty homes that three days three days ago were just like mine - filled with loving families and Christmas trees and carefully wrapped gifts under those trees. Homes bustling with the normal chatter of life, of the coming holidays, and of young children doing the things that young children do. Wondering where the Elf on the Shelf might be hiding today, what might be in the ginormous box that appeared under the tree last night with their beautiful little name written on the tag. The enormity of the loss that those families are enduring right now cannot be imagined by anyone who has not personally experienced it. Of that I have no doubt. But if the paralyzing sadness invoked by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School is any indication, I don’t know how those people are managing.

How does one recover from such horror? How do you trudge on when your soul has been ripped from you so violently and senselessly? People talk about motive. That is a joke. There can be nothing that passes as a motive for slaughtering completely innocent children. I do not want to forget the teachers and faculty that died Friday either. Their stories carry the same weight and their lives were cut short in the same brutal fashion. They died trying to protect the children of others, and they should be honored and memorialized as such. And the last cowardly act of the deranged piece of shit murdering bastard fuck was to take his own life, so that not one of those parents or spouses of the victims will ever have any real answers, never get to confront the animal that stole so much from their loved ones and from them. So how do you go on? How do you deal with the fact that you will never ever get to hold your child’s hand again, never get to kiss them goodnight, never get to hear them laugh, never get to see them grow up? No prom, no teaching them how to drive or how to cook, no soccer games, no… anything. What just yesterday was a primary aspect, a defining feature, of your life is gone. The person that occupied the vast majority of your time and your attention? Gone. What do you do with those presents under the tree? How can you ever enjoy anything ever again? I start to cry every time I imagine it, and my imagination isn’t that good. The events of Friday will fade over time, the acuteness of the pain dulled by years, but the casualties of that day are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Those directly effected by these events? Their lives will never be the same. That town will never be the same.

All of these thoughts keep leading me back to outrage at the shooter, followed shortly by thoughts of vengeance and retribution. I know it isn’t politically correct, but I really don’t care. Those weren’t even my children, but as a parent... We spend so much of our time nurturing our offspring, getting up at all hours to comfort them, reading them book after book, walking around and around the house half bent over, holding little itty bitty hands, delighting in every achievement, no matter how minor it is. “She almost fell over, but then she caught her balance!” or “She said ‘squirrel!’ I mean, it sounded like ‘skerl’ but she definitely said it.” We watch them play and think about how fast they seem to be growing up. And then they look over their shoulder and see us watching, and they smile the kind of real and pure smile that only a child can smile, and they feel safe and secure, because they know we’re there for them and we’re going to protect them and keep them from harm.

And then we can’t. Because harm is everywhere, and a life locked in your house is not really a life. But when something happens to your baby, you always end up second-guessing everything you did that led to the harm. Some tool I attended high school with posted some asinine comment that suggested the Sandy Hook teachers were somehow culpable because they weren’t toting firearms. I un-friended him. Blame the teachers. Blame the principal. Blame the gun laws. It is no one’s fault but the filth that shot those people. I will not name him. He should be anonymous, and should forever remain so. I saw a quote from Morgan Freeman that basically says as much. My own father has preached the same thing for years for those who would murder someone else to gain any kind of notoriety. No assassin shall ever have his or her name recorded or reported. They will be cremated and their ashes scattered to the four winds, or stirred into concrete for sewage tunnels. It is the victims and their families whose names should be remembered.

Those people need all of our empathy, all of our compassion, and all of our love. They don’t need us soap-boxing and using their pain and suffering for political purposes, and they don’t need someone labeling the asshole that carried out this attack “evil” or “insane.” Those are cheap and easy outs, and I’m not feeling any charity or compassion for that guy. I noticed that some in the religious quadrant have taken this opportunity to make snarky comments regarding how these things happen due to the lack of prayer in schools, as if their version of God would somehow be limited by man’s laws. As if He/She/It would turn his back on innocent children because of a beef with legislators. That’s real spiritual and healing. Nice work. I’m not what you might call a “believer.” I do not believe in the mythical Greek, Roman, or Norse gods. Nor do I believe in the Hebrew god or the Christian god (sorry Mom and Dad) or the Muslim god. However, in much the same way that I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I do believe in the spirit of this season of giving, what I do believe in is humanity, and in its incredible capacity for love and healing.

May we all strive to be a little bit better, shine a little bit brighter, love with a little more abandon, and hug our loved ones a little bit tighter – for all those who cannot.

In Memoriam:

Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Rachel Davino, 29